December 8, 2019, | Sister Esther Fangman, OSB
I will address two concepts tonight from our scripture readings from Malachi and from Matthew. First, the messenger for God in Malachi: He is someone who is a purifier, who cleanses things, refines them into purity like perfect gold or silver. IN other words, All stains are removed. In the gospel, this concept is again addressed as John the Baptist tells of the one coming who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and Fire. He tells the Pharisees and Sadducees, don’t come to be baptized unless your heart is really in it. Make your words match your actions. Produce good fruit as evidence that you want to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire. This one who will baptize us uses a winnowing fan to cleanse.
What does this say to us? It means that we – this community – must not speak of God’s presence unless our hearts, our minds, our actions in fact bring that reality into being here – that baptized reality of the kingdom of God.
Each day we, as a community, try to live God’s truthfulness and justice in the way we treat the earth and the way we treat each other. We thank God each day for his abundant mercy. Most of all we cry out with one voice glorifying God several times a day in our liturgy. We try to encourage one another with scripture. Thus, we give each other hope. We try to think in harmony with one another, a harmony that is based foremost on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus it is that we are able, with the help of God, to create a community that deals justly with one another, where differences are not just tolerated but work to enrich each other. Most of the time we do pretty well – even amidst the bad days. We try to enact the kingdom of God because we have been baptized by the Lord.
There is a word for this, numinous. It means, “Filled with a sense of the presence of divinity.”
One might say that we as a Benedictine community try to live an embodiment of the divinity already present among us. We try to become a place where the mysterious presence of the divinity can be found by how we live. We try to become a place where the mysterious presence of the divinity can be found by how we live. We do fall short – yet this is what we want to be. And Emily, we are asking you to live here in this numinous reality with us. Be influenced, be changed, be vulnerable, and we will work each day to do the same so that God may be found.
And that brings me to my second point. The gospel tells f a man – John the Baptist – who seems to be totally focused on preparing the way of the Lord. There is a total single-mindedness on his part. We too have a single purpose, and we ask you, Emily, to enter into that purpose with us- to whole-heartedly seek God with us in this numinous reality of God’s presence.